Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Julian Barnes- The Sense of an Ending

This review  has taken me a surprisingly long time to do, considering The Sense of an Ending  is only 150 pages long and could have feasibly been read within 3 or 4 hours. It’s been slow going because although I enjoyed the book, I didn’t feel desperate to reach the end as it is not plot-driven. It is more the sort of book that you read a few pages, put it down and think about them. Also it’s beautifully written, Julian Barnes has a lovely, lyrical style so I wanted to read slowly and pay attention to his particular choice of words and phrase.
"You get towards the end of life- no, not life itself, but of something else: the end of any likelihood of change in that life. You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?"

The Plot:  Tony Webster re-examines relationships and friendships from his school days after receiving an unexpected legacy from an old acquaintance. It is a novel about remorse, morality and memory. Of how people are guilty of editing past experiences and falsify their remembered behaviour, partly because of shame and partly because memory is fallible.  Trigger warning- the novel mentions suicide.

The Sense of Ending is above all things fantastically well written. Barnes captures the mix of arrogance and insecurity the younger Tony and his clique feel perfectly. There is even a poetic quality in Barnes’ descriptions of the grubbier, seedier aspects of growing up and first sexual experiences.

There is also a lot of truth in what Barnes has to say about memory. People’s recollections are often imperfect, and with help from the distancing effect of time, people are likely to remember events in a way that shows them in a more favourable light.

I’d recommend The Sense of an Ending, to readers interested in philosophy and psychology. It suits reflective readers who like to consider big questions. I wouldn’t really recommend the book to people who enjoy action-driven books, as not a lot happens in terms of plot, and it has a quite slow pace.

If you liked this book I’d suggest reading Donna Tart, The Secret History.  

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